Wednesday, June 27, 2007

# 38: CDC Stats for Grant Writers

The Center for Disease Control has introduced VitalStats, a site that will let you create your own tables from the information they collect. I haven't checked how local the reporting options are, but they offer a QuickGuide to walk you through the how-to.

Their description:
"Welcome to VitalStats, a collection of vital statistics products including tables, data files, and reports that allow users to access and examine vital statistics and population data interactively.

Use our prebuilt tables and reports for quick access to statistics. Or, you can use the data files to create your own tables--choosing from over 100 variables. Using the data files takes a little more time but gives you access to more data. You can customize the tables, and create charts, graphs, and maps. You can even export the data for use offline or in another format. Please see the Getting Started Quick Guide Graphic of P D F for more information. "
I find it interesting that they also provide a QuickGuide for calculating rates and percents. I could have used both the data and the guide when I wrote a grant last month that examined teen pregnancy figures from every conceivable direction.

Book mark this site for future use.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

#37: Writing, Briefly

Paul Graham wrote one of the best essays on writing in March of 2005. I encourage you to read it. In fact, print it out, post it on your bulliten board, and read it every time you start a new writing project.

Writing, Briefly:

(In the process of answering an email, I accidentally wrote a tiny essay about writing. I usually spend weeks on an essay. This one took 67 minutes—23 of writing, and 44 of rewriting.)"
Whether it's a grant application or a novel, Paul's advice applies.

Follow the link to Paul's site.

#36: Picture the Grant Reviewer

A reviewer at the National Institutes of Healt...Image via Wikipedia
Always write for your audience, not your client. And in the grant writing business, your audience is your review panel. Who are they? Your agencies' peers. People who research and consult in the area the grant addresses.

I write to a specific individual I picture with applications stacked up around him, late at night, eyes blurring. But here's Scott Adams' (of Dilbert fame) take on peer review. It's a bit different than mine.

The Dilbert Blog: Peer Review: "Peer Review

Peer review in science is a good thing, in the sense that it works better than any other process you can think of. But how well does it work? Dilbert Blog reader Jeff points to this link about the limits of peer review.

The article fits my preconceived notions quite well. Assuming scientists are human beings, it seems to me that most peer reviewers would fall into one of these categories:

1. Asshole
2. Biased egomaniac
3. Nice person who doesn’t want to make people feel bad
4. Too busy to put any quality thought into it
5. Person with low self-esteem who doesn’t want others to succeed in his or her field
6. Coward who doesn’t want to rock the boat

I suppose some scientists have plenty of free time, no biases, and would be happy to see colleagues succeed beyond their own careers. But seriously, how many of those scientists could there be? I don’t know any non-scientists who could fit that description."

Have you been a reviewer? Defend -- err, tell us about yourself.
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Fake Grant Writer Admits Fraud

Here's a news item that caught my eye in the midst of my grant writing frenzy last month. Can you believe it?

Fake Grant Writer Admits Fraud: "TALLAHASSEE, FL – A Hillsborough County woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for committing organized fraud.

Karen Kiehl pled guilty to defrauding more than 60 victims in a grant acquisition scam that ran for approximately 13 months. She was prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution. An investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office revealed that Kiehl, 50, falsely promoted herself as a grant writer. She claimed she could guarantee federal and state grants for anything from medical costs to home repair costs and charged approximately one percent of the requested grant amount for her grant writing services. More than 60 victims paid Kiehl approximately $195,000, but none of the grants were written and the victims received no money from Kiehl.

Kiehl was charged with one count of organized fraud, a first-degree felony. She pleaded guilty to the charge in April and was sentenced to five years in prison to be followed by 10 years of probation. She must also make restitution to her victims. 6-04-07"
Photo by !Borghetti

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

#35: Speaking the Language of Grants

Kaylea Hascall at Educause Connect posted a piece recently on a grant writing course she attended. One of the things that caught her attention was the jargon. I try to avoid jargon so her list gave me pause.

How could anyone write a grant application without using most of these words? They're so integrated into RFPs and narratives that I assume everyone knows what they mean. And, of course, that's just what jargon is -- a word that has special meaning within a particular group.

So here, thanks to Kaylea, are some important terms that may be foreign to new grant writers.

"I noticed a number of terms came up again and again. Some of these are very familiar to the business world or the IT world, but they have a specific meaning in the context of dealing with funders.
capacity-building -- This is a particular category of grant, where the non-profit seeks funding which will expand their reach or make them more self-sustaining. One example of a capacity-building grant is obtaining funds for a development person who can raise money from other sources and move the organization toward being self-sustaining.

sustainability -- Once you get started, how will you continue this project or program? Will you be dependent on the funder for some time into the future? This is an important consideration for foundations in particular....

cost-sharing -- A popular term, if you can use it. Basically it means that someone else is putting up some of the money, and thus the foundation gets more bang for their buck.

dissemination -- How you will share the project with others. Will an article be published in the New York Times? Will you present results at conferences? Historically, this is of particular concern to agencies that fund basic research, but over time this is also more of a concern for foundations.

leverage -- Another popular term, if applicable. Will foundation money enable you to better use existing resources?

stewardship -- the process of taking care of a grant and its funder after the grant is made. Thank-you notes, progress reports, and invitations to view the results of the work are all appropriate. Getting a grant from a funder more than once is impossible without this.
Thanks, Kayla.

#34: Does Grant Writing Require Much Revision?

This morning a client called to ask me to send her a copy of a grant we wrote almost three years ago. They're renegotiating their contract with the County and the proposal has to be updated and attached to the contract. (Seems like clients keep paper copies but lose track of their digital copies -- but then, that's another posting.)

I opened the final narrative just to check and found all my revisions laid out for the world to see. Yes, I revise and revise and revise. And I didn't know then what I know now.

Always, always, always accept all changes in your document before sending it out into the world.

You don't use the Reviewing Tool Bar? Well, start now. It only take a few seconds, but it makes your work present professionally and can potentially save you embarrassment and/or protect agency secrets.

In case you need to know how here are the steps --

Select View > Tool Bars > Reviewing to open the Reviewing Tool Bar.

Then drop down the Accept Changes menu that the arrow points to. Next select Accept All Changes in Document.

If you follow these steps no one will ever know that you were going to provide the service for half the price or that you changed the funders name when you recycled the leadership biographies.

I make this my final step before saving for the last time. You should, too.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Oh, my! June is here.

Who was I kidding -- 79 resources by June! Ha!

I've just finished a major writing jag. One deadline after another. The phone ringing. Drafts moving back and forth across the ether. The clock ticking. Adrenalin pumping.

And suddenly it's quiet. Not a grant deadline in sight. What a nice way to spend the balance of June. Plenty of interesting work to address at a sane pace.

I have a long list of posts to polish for you. A client's and my own e-newsletter to publish. An annual report to finish up, and a search for private funding for some of my clients' dream projects.

My new summer office is almost ready. We've replaced the old screen house with a new screened gazebo. Glenn's added electricity and a ceiling fan. With a wireless internet connection, my laptop and a monitor, and a wireless phone I'm ready to spend the summer working outdoors.

Oh, I love summer.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Grant Writers' Proofreading and Copy-editing Test

If you're one of those people for whom test-taking is another way to prove how smart you are, here's one for you. How strong are your proofreading skills?

Freelance Proofreading and Copy-editing - Proofreading test:
"The following passage contains several common errors of the type you are likely to come across in a set of proofs (though not as closely clustered as here, I hope). This test should not be taken too seriously, but since you have nowhere better to be at 9:15 on a Thursday morning than here, I hope that you'll find it fun, at least."
Thanks to Visual Thesaurus for pointing me here. Yes, I took the test on a Thursday morning. I'm glad I have spell check, grammar resources, style guides, and good friends to edit my work.

How did you do?